Former Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt has resigned from his position as a visiting professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary amid controversy that followed his decision to share a short message by his son, who is gay.
On Monday evening, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin announced on Twitter that Merritt, who serves as pastor of Cross Pointe Church of Duluth, Georgia, volunteered to step down from his position as a visiting professor of preaching.
“Today my dear friend [Merritt] asked me to allow him to decline serving as a visiting professor [at SEBTS], not wanting to be a distraction to the school,” added Akin. “I have honored his request. His integrity, character & love for the gospel is a model for us all. A great man & friend!”
Merritt stepping down as a visiting professor at SEBTS came days after he garnered criticism for sharing a link to a video of his son, Jonathan Merritt, a journalist and author, speaking at Good Shepherd Church in New York City.
Along with sharing the link in a Nov. 22 Twitter post, Merritt said: "I don’t agree with my loved son @JonathanMerritt on everything to be sure. But I encourage you to listen to his message on Mark 13. It is both brilliant and faithful to the gospel and the coming of Jesus!"
In response to criticisms from some Christians over his decision to promote his son's message, the elder Merritt defended his position in a follow-up post on Nov. 23: "Regardless of who preaches Jesus or speaks truth I rejoice when they do because I love Jesus and truth. I can approve a message even when I have disagreements with the messenger. I agree with Paul: love rejoices with the truth. And that is the truth."
The Conservative Baptist Network released a statement last week condemning James Merritt's post sharing his son's message, arguing that the former SBC president was “wholly illogical and demonstrably dangerous.”
“For one who is employed by a Southern Baptist seminary receiving Cooperative Program tithe dollars to promote an unrepentant sinner — no matter whose son he is — as a trustworthy preaching source is a betrayal of trusting Southern Baptists," the Conservative Baptist Network asserted.
Merritt’s son, Jonathan, responded to the Conservative Baptist Network in a series of posts on Twitter. On Monday, he wrote: "Christianity is not for the faint of heart, folks. Jesus asks us to love all — even fundamentalists who rage at the mere thought of the Other. Praying for the CBN that they would come to know the God whose name is Love, Mt 5:44."
In an earlier post responding to criticisms directed at him and his father, Merritt said: "I’m not the only gay child of an SBC pastor who’s home for the holidays. Statements like this make it so much harder for those who are not welcome this time of year. Despite our deep disagreements, I receive kindness and love — not disgust — when I come home. Thanks, Dad."